Thursday 3 December 2009

Visions for unity

David Adams, writing in today's Irish Times, argues that "if nationalism is serious about a united Ireland, it has a duty to explain to unionists precisely what it has in mind". On one level he is quite correct, of course, but on a deeper level he is wrong.

Only if nationalists are trying to entice unionists into 'their' state can they explain what they have in mind. But, as Adams says, "those who believe that, if it comes to it, the six Northern counties could simply be tacked on to the Republic, and unionists would fit neatly in with a 32-county version of how things are in the South at present, are kidding themselves".

Precisely. And that is why Adams is wrong.

Thinking nationalists are not proposing that the 6 counties are simply absorbed into the larger state, like East Germany was absorbed by West Germany a generation ago. Unthinking nationalists, aided and abetted, it has to be said, by deliberately mischievous unionists, may talk of reunification as a sort of '26-annexing-6' scenario, but this cannot be how it happens.

Adams complains that Sinn Féin "hasn’t given the first thought or care to what would result if they did manage to bring almost a million reluctant unionists into a united Ireland". But that is not actually a bad thing – on the contrary, if Sinn Féin tried to dictate what shape and form the new 32 County Ireland would have, then unionists and others could justifiably criticise them for dictating a pre-determined outcome without listening to the voices of unionists, and indeed the 90% of Ireland's people who do not vote for Sinn Féin!

Nationalists cannot tell unionists what unionism will want in a united Ireland – only the unionists can do that. For nationalists to say to unionists 'you want links to Britain, so we'll agree to an East-West ministerial council' would be utterly presumptuous, as it may not come close to what unionists actually want. But being nationalists, nationalists cannot truly understand what unionists would settle for – especially as they keep repeating, mantra-like, that all they want is to remain in the UK. That mantra does not help to answer the question of 'what do you want, though, if you cannot stay in the UK?'

While many people have attachments to particular aspects of one or the other state (Adams mentions the NHS as a potential hurdle), or aspirations for things that are not yet a reality in either, the eventual outcome can only be arrived at by negotiation, compromise, deal-making, arguments about resource allocation, rights, duties and responsibilities. No one group – unionists, nationalists, southerners, northerners, can or should try to impose their view of things in entirety. Everything ultimately could be subject to trade-offs, and no-one at this stage should be expected to reveal their bargaining positions or the strengths of their attachments to one or other issue.

Take, for example, the flag of the future 32 County state. If nationalists at this stage admitted that they have only a weak attachment to the Tricolour, and would be prepared to trade it for agreement elsewhere, then unionists would immediately 'bank' this 'concession', and its value would be reduced to nothing.

The problem, at this stage, is that negotiations cannot start. Adams complains that nationalists have not set out their initial position, yet he knows that in the absence of any desire to bargain, unionists will simply parody that initial position and exaggerate it to add weight to their refusal to even discuss the nature of a reunified Ireland. Only when unionists realise that they must bargain, will they even approach the table – but even then reluctantly, negatively and obstructively. This is why, as Adams points out, Sinn Féin's strategy "involves chipping away at the morale of unionists in the hope that sufficient numbers will tire of the hassle, allowing the rest to be dragged over a 50 per cent-plus-one line" – because only when that 50% line is crossed does the real negotiation begin. Until that point, unionists will continue to refuse to discuss the issue.

While Adams' frustration is understandable, he would have been better employed explaining what unionists want (after all, he remains one), and encouraging his 'tribe' to engage in the conversation. After all, no discussion of a post-reunification Ireland commits unionists to anything – only the outcome of a border poll can do that – and that outcome will happen regardless of whether the conversation has started or not. It would be much better for all of us if it has started, and if both sides engage in it honestly.


Anonymous said...

..."only when that 50% line is crossed does the real negotiation begin. Until that point, unionists will continue to refuse to discuss the issue..."

Absolutely correct analysis.

However, what is REALLY interesting is the fact that a unionist such as Davy Adams actually brings the "unionist doomsday scenario" up as a serious issue for discussion even now when we have not yet reached the 50% + 1 mark.

It would be very foolish for nationalists to show any cards at this stage.

A very welcome development and full credit to Davy Adams.

- Munsterman

hoboroad said...

TUV party member Trevor Collins sets up a petition to release convicted killer Torrens Knight. He has more than 2,000 signatures according to the Daily Mirror.

Anonymous said...

I think it has to be a case of south 'absorbing' north because of the disparity in size, population, etc. The capital will be in the south for example. It can not be spoken of as an equal union. The real question is what can nationalism do to show unionists it is not inimical to their interests to be absorbed?

andrewg said...

It can not be spoken of as an equal union.

That is exactly what Unionists are afraid of.

Anonymous said...

"It cannot be spoken of as an equal union. "

That is exactly what Unionists are afraid of.
- andrewg

Can you provide a possible realistic shopping-list that would allay possible unionist fears ?

(By the way, the union that unionists currently find themselves could hardly be described as an "equal union").

- Munsterman

hoboroad said...

"He never was a real bad person, but the troubles in Northern Ireland provoked many a young man to do things that they wouldn't have done in normal circumstances".

The words of Trevor Collins above describing Torrens Knight killer of 12 people. I wonder what his party leader thinks of his excuses for Torrens Knight behaviour. I guess somebody should ask Jim Allister.

andrewg said...

Can you provide a possible realistic shopping-list that would allay possible unionist fears ?

I doubt at this stage that any realistic list would.

the union that unionists currently find themselves could hardly be described as an "equal union"

The standard unionist reply to that is "better the devil you know" ;-)

Anonymous said...

andrewg -

Yeah, point taken. Thanks for reply.
However, Davy Adams article is interesting in so far as he has actually mentioned this elephant in the room and that can only be a good thing.

- Munsterman

bangordub said...

I Agree. Jim Allistair should be pushed to reply to this.
His party is based on the premise of No "Terrorists" in Government.
Does his definition tally with Mr Collins?
You know what the answers gonna be though..........

andrewg said...

This is all chicken and egg. You can't expect a skeptical electorate to vote for a proposal with no substance, but you're refusing to discuss the substance until you have agreement on the proposal. That's a sure way of getting absolutely nowhere.

What nationalists really need to do to gain the trust of unionists is explain why nationalists want a united Ireland. I suspect that if they were to be honest, most would answer "so we can finally get to outvote those bloody Unionists".

Watcher said...

The Ulster British wish to remain in Union with their fellow British - there is nothing and I mean nothing that will persuade them to enter a United Ireland. Nationalists ruminating about this issue is a complete waste of time and nothing but hobby politics. There are cranks in The UK who dream of a return to empire, but they are few and far between. There are more Irish Nationalists, but this merely reflects the nature of Irish society, especially the perverse relationship that existed between corrupt politicians and The Catholic church, both groups using 'The North' as a diversion. We have all seen the outworkings of this arrangement - mass rape of children in The South and the slaughter of children in The North. I suspect it will take another thirty years for this mind set to be reversed.

There will be no United Ireland.

Anonymous said...

Very wrong Watcher.

Nationalist parties are gaining voters all the time. The truth is that only a small number of Unionist-to-Nationalist converts is needed. There are already examples amongst politicians in Harvey Bicker and Billy Leonard.

These men are evidence that some people who were brought up as Unionists are beginning to question their own politics. They are beginning to see that Ireland makes more sense United, rather than divided. No doubt peace and increased North-south cooperation is facilitating this.

The future of this island lies in the hands of people like this. Every effort should be made to persuade them of the benefits of a United country.

Watcher said...

Dream on. The problem for people like you is that 'The Troubles' cemented Unionist identity. Irish Nationalists should drag every Provo into the street and hang them from lamp posts, because they have killed Irish unity stone dead.

I don't know where you're from and to be honest I don't care, but people in The ROI experienced little of 'the troubles' and have little inkling of their impact on both Unionists and indeed Northern Nationalists. Reading blogs like this shows how true that is, with it's waffling about selling Irish Unity to Unionists or hoping that Unionists will accept some 50%+1 head count. It's quite simply ludicrous.

hoboroad said...

West Belfast 421
North Belfast 402
Armagh 235
Tyrone 172
South Belfast 152
Antrim 132
East Belfast 100
Down 95
Derry City 84
England 70
Derry 68
Republic of Ireland 67
Belfast Central 43
Fermanagh 40
Holland 4
Germany 1
France 1

Total 2087 Civilian Deaths by Location

hoboroad said...

All Deaths by Location

Belfast 1687
Armagh 520
Tyrone 359
Derry 358
Antrim 211
Down 206
GB 128
Republic Of Ireland 121
Fermanagh 112
Europe 18

NI Total 3453
Overall Total 3720

hoboroad said...

Deaths for which the IRA were responsible

Civilians 639
Army/RAF/RoyalNavy/TA 454
Other Republicans 151
Loyalists 30
Prison Service 20
Garda/IrishArmy 7
GB Police 6
Other 7

Total 1768

Anonymous said...

I think the only viable solution to the problems in the North is independence.

Republicans are never going to be satisfied being a part of the United Kingdom and Unionists are never going to accept being part of a Ireland.

Talking about how Unionists are just going to have to accept being a part of a united Ireland is the same as Unionists saying Republicans are going to have to accept being a part of the United Kingdom.

Either option is never going to satisfy one side.

Now you have the dissident Republicans that are attempting violence. If there was a vote for unification there would be violence from the Unionists.

What would happen then? The Irish military would not want or even be able to control the problem. The Irish government would not be able to take control. The British would remain and the Republicans would get pissed off and start more shit.

An independent Northern Ireland could receive aid from the UK, Ireland and EU.

Could ditch the 30% corporate tax rate that the UK has. Implement the same tax rates as the Republic.

UK could still offer citizenship to people born in Northern Ireland (just like Ireland does)

hoboroad said...

The Dead

Civilian Catholic 1259
Civilian Protestant 727
British Army 503
Republicans 395
Loyalists 167
Others 160

Total 3720

Paddy Canuck said...

Watcher said...

"Dream on. The problem for people like you is that 'The Troubles' cemented Unionist identity. Irish Nationalists should drag every Provo into the street and hang them from lamp posts, because they have killed Irish unity stone dead."

Wow, Roger Whittaker couldn't whistle in a graveyard like you. Are you phoning this stuff in from 1969 or something? You know, back when just talking to the Taioseach could lose you your job as NI PM? Well, hop in the DeLorean, Marty, and come visit the future. Look around you. The gerrymandering councils are gone. Job discrimination is gone. The RUC and B Specials are gone. The British Army is gone. Dublin gets to put in its 2¢ on how Northern Ireland is governed. Ian Paisley sat down with Sinn Fein and formed a working government. Martin McGuinness is Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland. FF is organizing to run in NI elections now. There... now go back to the 60s, tell them what you've seen, and see if you can convince them a united Ireland's no closer in 2009 than it was in 1969.